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Silicon Valley Employment Law Blog

Former firefighter recruit wins wrongful termination case

A former firefighter recruit in the San Diego area lost her place in the Fire Academy after she complained about discrimination and harassment. She filed a wrongful termination and discrimination suit shortly after and just recently won her case. Other California residents who find themselves in similar situations at their places of work may follow in her footsteps and seek compensation for their losses as well.

According to a recent report, the 32-year-old female began her training at the Fire Academy in 2015. She was one of three girls in the class of 36. She claims that she was forced to share a locker room with the male recruits, and that the men often made lewd comments and hung inappropriate pictures on the walls, and sent them to her via email and social media.

Employment contracts: Do you have to sign a noncompete agreement?

You found the perfect job. Your interview went well and you are ready to get started, but then it happened. Before you can officially be hired, however, you are told you need to sign certain employment contracts, including a noncompete agreement. Do you really have to sign it? Do you and other California residents in your same position have a say in the matter?

A noncompete agreement basically requires you to sign your rights -- to work in the same field in a certain locale and for a specific time period -- away. It is an employer's way of protecting his or her business. These employment contracts help with employee retention and protecting trade secrets. These agreements are enforceable, so be careful and be sure to read and understand the terms before signing.

Did a cancer diagnosis lead to discrimination in the workplace?

A cancer diagnosis can come out of nowhere. Some people feel fine and have no symptoms, while others have symptoms that something is not right, but cancer was the last thing on their minds. In any case, receiving a cancer diagnosis is a shock, and going through the treatments can wreak havoc on one's personal and professional life. Working while being treated for cancer is possible, but some California residents may find that they are victims of discrimination in the workplace during this already very difficult time their lives.

When a person has cancer, other people may view him or her as weak, unable and less productive than employees who are not fighting the disease. While an individual with cancer may require some accommodations in the workplace, that does not mean he or she is unable to do the job assigned or is incapable of moving on and doing more. Unfortunately, cancer patients often end up being:

  • Demoted
  • Fired
  • Passed up for promotions
  • Excluded from training opportunities
  • Offered little or no flexibility for medical appointments

Restaurant settles payment dispute

Employees and former employees of the Rangoon Ruby and Burmese Ruby restaurants will be receiving proper payment for the hours they worked thanks to a recent settlement reached in their wage violation case. A total of 298 employees filed the payment dispute a year ago and are happy with the final outcome. Other California residents whose employers have been shorting them pay may be able to take the same action that these employees did in an effort to seek compensation for their losses.

The employees affected by the wage theft claimed that their employers required them to work beyond their scheduled hours and failed to pay them overtime. Some claimed that they were required to be on call 24/7, again without pay. A total of 211 employees say that they lost money due to working split shifts and not being paid the state-required differential -- which is equal to an extra hour of pay per shift.

Want to file an EEOC claim? Here's how to get it done

California residents who feel that they are victims of discrimination at their places of work may believe that the best thing they can do is find somewhere else to work. No one should have to stick around that kind of environment. While moving on certainly is an option, so is holding one's employer accountable for what is going on in one's company. Anyone who wishes to do this may file an EEOC claim and an accompanying civil suit.

What is an EEOC claim? It is a complaint filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The role of this government agency is to protect workers from unfair treatment in the workplace.

Things to know about employment contracts

Employers in California and elsewhere depend on contracts to keep their companies running smoothly and to help avoid litigation. Some business owners require their employees to sign employment contracts, while others prefer to use employment agreements that are simply implied. What is the difference?

There are a number of employment contracts out there. Some are used by employers to state the terms of employment. Such contracts may include:

  • Confidentiality agreements: These restrict what employees can share about their employers and company products and secrets.
  • Noncompete agreements: These restrict where a person can work after leaving a company.
  • Termination clauses: These give details as to acceptable reasons to fire an employee and how the termination process will work.
  • Arbitration clauses: These state that employees who have issues with their employers will have to utilize arbitration to resolve the matter rather than going to court.

California employment discrimination: Pregnancy discrimination

Being pregnant is not necessarily considered a medical condition; it is natural. Unfortunately, for some women, medical conditions do arise as a result of their pregnancies. To make matters worse, some women experience employment discrimination at their places of work because of their pregnancies. When this happens, they may seek compensation for their losses by filing claims in a California civil court.

What exactly is pregnancy discrimination? According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, pregnancy discrimination is when an employer treats a woman in an unfavorable manner because she is pregnant, has a pregnancy-related medical condition or gives birth. Employers are prohibited from firing, refusing to hire, demoting, refusing to promote or offering subpar benefits to women who are pregnant.

Was racial discrimination behind termination of officers?

Everyone wants to be treated fairly in their work environment. Unfortunately, many California residents find that this does not happen for one reason or another. In 2016, five Inglewood police officers were fired from their jobs after shooting a couple. These officers have recently filed a lawsuit, claiming that racial discrimination was behind their termination.

These five officers were among several policemen who responded to a call about a couple sitting in a car that was parked in the middle of the road. The couple was unresponsive and the female in the passenger seat had a loaded semiautomatic gun sitting on her lap. For 40 minutes officers tried to wake the couple. When they finally did come to, the driver attempted to flee but was unsuccessful.

Constructive termination -- what is that?

California residents who have worked for employers that made being at their jobs intolerable, resulting in them ultimately quitting, may just think that they were with companies that were not a good fit for them. Maybe that is true or maybe the employer purposely made working conditions awful in the hopes that certain employees would quit, making firing them unnecessary. This is called constructive termination and it is illegal.

Constructive termination is actually a form of wrongful termination under California laws. If a person quits because his or her working conditions are terrible and it is determined that his or her employer created such working conditions, the state will ignore the resignation and consider his or her loss of employment a firing. If it is possible to prove an employer's conduct was unlawful, the former employee may achieve compensation for his or her resulting losses.

Hospital accused of wrongful termination, discrimination

There is nothing easy about being a nurse at a hospital. The hours are long, the number of patients assigned to each nurse can be overwhelming and the staff issues that arise can be a lot to deal with. Recently, one hospital in California has come under fire after two of its former nurses filed wrongful termination and discrimination lawsuits against the facility. If there is any validity to what these nurses are claiming occurred at this establishment, they may be able to successfully recover monetary damages.

According to a recent report, in January of this year, 13 labor and delivery nurses wrote letters to supervisors complaining about racial tension among the staff. The group claimed that they were treated unfairly, were often belittled and insulted, and were even segregated because of their race. Even after so many nurses complained, the hospital allegedly failed to investigate this group's claims.

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